Your UX Portfolio — Make it stand out
Hey! I am Nitish Khagwal, and I am a Product Designer.
Being a product designer, I work across different roles like design systems, interaction design, production design, and design ops.
The previous days, I was trying to filter out few portfolios to fit in our team.
While filtering 250+ designers, I found most of the portfolios (90%) don’t stand out at first glance or have the wrong cues for the talent acquirers.
I am jotting down everything that you should keep in mind while making or updating your portfolio to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
No to direct project links ⚠️
Designers often add a direct link pointing to Google Play or App Store, marking it as their portfolio.
It may give confidence to the talent acquirers that you have worked on a live project, but it doesn’t tell them about your design process or how you think and function.
The talent acquirers have a large number of candidate profiles to look at, so you have small time to persuade, so at least prefer a small case study.
No to Social Portfolio 🙅♂️
25K followers on the Instagram design page could be an entry gate or help to attract talent acquirers. But it is hard to showcase your design process on apps like Instagram.
Apart from this, social websites restrict viewing posts and profiles without login, which is again a key road blocker.
Yes to Behance/Medium ✅
You can use a website like Behance to showcase your interaction design or visually rich design projects.
If you are more inclined towards user research, brainstorming, ideation, and defining design strategy, you should prefer Medium.
When you showcase your case studies on Medium, try to create your publication named as your portfolio. It prevents talent acquirers to accidentally land on your knowledge-sharing blogs and stay only on your case studies.
If you are a seasoned designer who already has a couple of projects, you can use website builders or code your website from scratch to create your portfolio and showcase your work.
Case Studies ✏️
While making case studies, you should make them concise and use as few words as possible. The long case studies look good, but who has time to read a 30-minute case study. I guess not even our friend will do that for a free pizza.
Use simple plain language to communicate your process.
You should clearly define your role, the problem you are trying to solve, strategy, process, and the final deliverable.
Your case study should provide evidence for your talent and skills.
Prioritize Thumbnails ⭐️
You should create a visually rich thumbnail (no matter even if you are a UX researcher). When a talent acquirer lands on your portfolio, the very first visual cues they receive are project title and thumbnail.
I often see designers write project names in Helvetica with a solid background. It is a big false impression and this needs a fix. You can use mockups and include quick small project statements in the thumbnail to grab quick attention.
Read more about Scent of Information to make thumbnails more effective.
Remove Clutter ✅
Designers tend to learn, practice, and explore different skills.
We try so many different things like making 3d illustrations, icons library, custom fonts, animations, and even some fun birthday cards.
It is great to practice, but everything should not be added as part of the portfolio. It confuses the talent acquirers to identify your key skills.
Designers often start with making banners in the early days we feel proud about it and add them to our portfolio. It is one of the most common wrong things found in designer portfolios. If you are planning to be a user researcher or an interaction designer, try removing these banners completely from your portfolio.
Avoid Daily UI Challenges ❌
Daily UI challenges are great to practice interfaces and excel over visual design skills. They are great to grab some attention on social websites, but when it comes to the portfolio, you should not include them.
Daily UI challenge doesn’t highlight how you think or brainstorm about the information architecture or user flow because it is just one or two screens in a specific context.
Find Niche ✌️
Today, product design has so many different touchpoints. Different touchpoints have different platforms like web or mobile. A specific set of expertise is required for the respective touchpoints and platforms.
If you want to work on web projects (which includes responsive web and adaptive design) you should showcase more web projects.
If you primarily work on mobile apps, you should showcase projects that are primarily focused on mobile experience design.
Here are a few of niche’s that could be your potential choices —
- Mobile App Design [iOS and Android]
- Web App Design [PWA, AMP, RWD, Adaptive Design]
- Website Design
In the early days, we want to be a generalist rather than being specialist. So it is okay to give equal weightage to different choices like putting 2 projects for web and 2 for mobile, but you should understand and excel at your craft.
Highlight Skills ✨
Being designer you could have long list of skills which may include -
- Quantitative and Qualitative Research (Primary/Secondary)
- Convergent and Divergent Thinking
- Defining Strategy and Scope
- Information Architecture and User Flows
- Visual Design (Spacing, Alignments, Typefaces, Icons & Illustrations)
- Motion Design (microInteractions or App Transitions)
- Dev Handoff (Git, Version Control, Sprites, Assets Optimization)
- UAT, Usability and Guerrilla Testing
- and list goes to infinity …
An individual really can’t excel in all these skills equally, it is nearly impossible. Even if you are a seasoned designer, you will excel over one skill more as compared to another.
You should create and showcase your projects or case studies in such a fashion that it highlights your role, key skills and what you love to do
Hide Outdated Projects 🙈
Every day, we practice, learn and excel over skills. We come to know what is more apt and the right way.
The industry is changing at a fast pace. Remember, we used to design for 320x568 for iPhone, and now we design at 375x812. We also see a significant change in visuals and introduction of new design patterns.
Similarly, on the web — a few years back, fixed-width layouts were quite dominating. But nowadays, fluid and hybrid layouts are more common.
We should try to showcase the most recent projects in our portfolio.
You never know while screening which projects the talent acquirer will tap upon, so why even take a chance.
If you are a UX researcher or UX writer, you don’t need to worry much about this part as humans will function the same way they did for the last 50 years or so.
Contact Information 📞
Seems easy but still, designers forget to prioritize it in their portfolio. Keep your contact number and email address upfront. Remember, this is the CTA of your portfolio.
When you create your portfolio, always keep in mind what you are naturally good at and what kind of value you can provide to the organization. Keep notable projects.
You should at least ask yourself following questions —
- What do I want acquirers to recognize me for?
- How do talent acquirers will describe me and my skills?
- Can acquirers can reach me out easily?
I hope you find this small piece of writing helpful and improvise your portfolio before applying to your next design job post.